Is Wife Swapping Risky?

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A distinguished psychiatrist replies to a reader who suggests wife-swapping as a means of increasing married happiness.

By Walter R. Stokes, M.D., LL.B.

LETTER FROM A READER:
In your March 1963 issue, under the title “Question of the Month,” you published a letter from one of your readers in which he confessed his desire that he and his wife hare extramarital sexual relations by mutual consent. Your reply was very interesting.

But, maybe due to a lack of experience on your part with situations like this, the sexual aspect was not discussed clearly enough. In my opinion many others have the same desires as your letter writer.

I consider myself experienced in this matter, and I am sure that my opinion could be of some help to you. I am 50 years old and my wife is 44, and we have been married for 27 years. We have been very happy. With the years our love toward each other has improved and our sexual life is very active and we both enjoy it.

Fifteen years ago I noticed that thinking of my wife having sexual relations with another man would sexually arouse me, and 1 let her know this. I noticed that she also was sexually aroused when I talked to her about the matter. As time passed we thought more and more about this.

But the time came when the thought of this was not enough. Very carefully we began to plan a way in which we could put our thoughts into action. We became friendly with other married couples that felt the same way we do.

Right now, we know of a few married couples who feel this way and every so often we get together and dance and play games. Eventually we indulge in sexual activities, exchanging wives. This is done delicately, and without any drinking. I can assure you that each couple is happily married, and we all love our wives, and of course they love their husbands. We don’t feel any jealousy or guilt for doing this.

For myself, I can tell you that after having this adventure I love my wife more. I consider her faithful, pure and affectionate. I enjoy seeing her enjoying sexual relations with another man, and in our home we are very happy. Everybody respects us. Our friends are also happy. All of them are very well educated.

I hope that this experience will help others that have the same feelings to face them and find the way to satisfy their desires.

REPLY BY DR. WALTER R. STOKES After careful and thoughtful reading of the above letter, I am obliged to question the wisdom of seeking to enhance marital sexual enjoyment by the means advocated in it. I raise no conventional moral question. My concern is with the practical soundness and workability of the behavior described.

The writer of the letter makes wife-changing seem a simple, pleasing kind of behavior if the participants are free from a conventional moralistic outlook. However, from much professional observation of sex activities of this kind I am skeptical about their soundness and cannot join in approving.

I have known of several couples who have engaged in this type of behavior by mutual consent and for the same reasons given here. But in each instance unhappy and tragic complications have ultimately arisen and the marriage has broken up.

The reasons for this are two-fold. First, there is the question as to why a man and woman who are maturely response to each other should feel a need for this kind of stimulation. Most psychiatrists feel that it arises from ungratified childhood sex curiosity and may be related to unconscious homosexual urges.

My second reason for challenging the soundness of this behavior is the heavy risk that one of the spouses may become seriously attached to an extra-marital partner, after which interest in the spouse rapidly wanes and the marriage goes on the rocks. I have known this to occur repeatedly.

For these reasons I am emphatic in discouraging this type of behavior.

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Now retired after over 30 years of psychiatric practice, Dr. Stokes is a Fellow of the Amer. Assoc. of Marriage Counselors and a distinguished pioneer in sex education and marriage counseling. He is author of “Married Love in Today’s World.”

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